Eastern Conference Final:  Bruins vs Hurricanes

The Eastern Conference Final pits what can be considered this years “Cinderella story” the Hurricanes, against a team most love to hate in the Bruins.  The Bruins are in their first conference final since 2013 while the Hurricanes are hoping to ride the wave to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006 when Justin Williams tapped the puck into the empty net, sealing the Stanley Cup for the Hurricanes.

In a playoffs defined by unpredictability, the Bruins have solidified their standing as one of the NHL’s elite teams in defeating the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets, both quite handily at the end of the day. The Hurricanes can and will challenge the Bruins with their style of aggressive play and speed, but on most nights they are going to be outmatched by a better team. Rask is playing extremely well while the Hurricanes reply on a less seasoned goaltender in Mrazek.  The Bruins main line can’t be silenced forever, Boston has renewed passion and will ultimately serve as too much for the Hurricanes.

FANPICKS PREDICTION:  Boston in five

Western Conference Final:  Blues vs Sharks

This is a rematch of the 2016 Western Conference Final, which was won by the Sharks in six games. For both the Sharks and Blues it represented their best playoff runs of the 21st century, and ever since they just haven’t been able to live up to expectations.

Since 2000, the Sharks and Blues have the second- and sixth-most cumulative regular season points in the league, however neither have a Stanley Cup to show for it.  This year may be as good a chance as any to put those demons to bed.

Injuries remain the concern for the Sharks top D-man Erik Karlsson.  He hasn’t scored a goal yet these playoffs, and while Karlsson brings that offensive dynamism, when he’s on the ice the Sharks are allowing more goals than they are scoring.

The Blues have been excellent on the forecheck and cycle throughout the playoffs, carrying the play and applying immense pressure in key moments.  This pressure will eventually be overwhelming for an already worn down Sharks defence and aging players such as Joe Thorton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Justin Braun, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

FANPICKS PREDICTION:  Blues in six

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Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Chris Paul and Klay Thompson
Source: Getty Images North America

NBA EZ Pick Preview 04/02/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Tuesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Russell Westbrook (vs LAL) or Stephen Curry (vs DEN)

Russell Westbrook triple-doubled during Sunday’s narrow loss to the Mavs, tallying 25 points, 11 boards, 11 dimes, three triples, two steals and three turnovers in 38 minutes. As an added bonus, Westbrook finished 4-of-4 from the line, something that hasn’t happened all that often this season (he’s shooting a career-low 65.4% from the stripe). Unfortunately, he also picked up his 17th technical foul of the season in this one after swinging his arm to get Devin Harris off him on a drive to the hoop, and if that isn’t rescinded, he’ll be just one more tech away from invoking another mandatory one-game suspension.

Stephen Curry hit 8-of-14 shots and five 3-pointers for 25 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 27 minutes of Sunday’s ridiculous 137-90 win over the Hornets. Klay Thompson also played 27 minutes and hit 9-of-16 shots and six 3-pointers for 24 points, while Kevin Durant hit 5-of-5 shots for 11 points, two rebounds, nine assists and a 3-pointer in his 27 minutes. Unfortunately for KD, Curry and Klay were on fire and took care of all the heavy lifting against Charlotte. The Warriors are a game up on the Nuggets now with the No. 1 seed in the West, and while all of these guys may get a day off between now and the end of the season, it’s a great sign that the Warriors are still playing at full speed this late in the season. They clinched the Pacific Division title tonight, handed the Hornets their worst loss of the season, and Curry has now made five or more 3-pointers in a career-high eight straight games. They could possibly put Denver away with a win over the Nuggets at Oracle on Tuesday.

LaMarcus Aldridge (vs ATL) or Nikola Jokic (vs GSW)

LaMarcus Aldridge notched 27 points with 18 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 36 minutes of a 113-106 loss to the Kings on Sunday. This was his 22nd game of the season with a 20-10 line, the most by a Spur since Tim Duncan in 2008-09. LMA also racked up a career-high 10 offensive rebounds, the most by a Spur since Duncan in 2011 (h/t to stat guru Jordan Howenstine). The Spurs play four times next week which includes games against the Hawks and Cavs, so be on the lookout for a possible rest day.

Nikola Jokic was ejected from Sunday’s game vs. the Wizards for two technical fouls. He should have walked away after his first tech but had plenty to say to the officials. Joker suffered a bloody nose earlier in the game when Bobby Portis extended his arm on a dunk attempt and may have still been fired up about that. The good news for fantasy owners is that The Joker had a phenomenal night in the box score with 23 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.

Trae Young (vs SAS) or De’Aaron Fox (vs HOU)

Trae Young hit the game-winning shot against the Bucks on Sunday, adding a double-double of 12 points (5-of-19 FGs) with 16 assists, five rebounds, two steals, two 3-pointers and just one turnover in 35 minutes. This was Young’s second game-winner in just over a week. He struggled with his shot for most of the game, but hit two big shots in the lane to give the Hawks a hard fought win at home. Young passed Chris Paul for 12th in assists in a rookie season and now owns all five of the top-5 assists performances from a rookie this season. Young might just snatch that Rookie of the Year Award right out of Luka Doncic’s hands at this rate.

De’Aaron Fox is scoring 17.5 points per game and averaging 3.8 rebounds for the Kings.

Klay Thompson (vs DEN) or Chris Paul (vs SAC)

Klay Thompson contributed 24 points (9-16 FG, 6-9 3Pt) and one rebound in 27 minutes Sunday in the Warriors’ 137-90 win over the Hornets. If not for the Warriors turning the game into a runaway victory after three quarters, Thompson likely would have seen enough minutes to make a run at his third 30-point game of March. Thompson settled for cracking 20 points for third time in four contests, during which he has shot 50.8 percent from the field while knocking down 16 treys.

Chris Paul scored 22 points with two rebounds, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes against the Kings on Saturday. It’s the first time he’s hit the 20-point mark since Mar. 17, but CP3’s dimes continue to trend down with just 7.8 per game this month. He’s going to turn 34 in May, so his fantasy stock for next season may drop him to out of the top 30 in ADP for the first time in years.

Steven Adams (vs LAL) or DeMarcus Cousins (vs DEN)

Steven Adams hit 10-of-17 shots on his way to 20 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two blocks over 39 minutes in a three-point loss to the Mavericks on Sunday. Adams dominated the Dallas bigs, and he was quite a force on the offensive glass (nine O-boards), creating numerous second-chance opportunities for the Thunder. He was arguably OKC’s best player in that game, and as an added bonus for 9-cat owners, he didn’t commit a single turnover while he was out there.

DeMarcus Cousins was ejected with a flagrant 2 foul on Sunday vs. Charlotte. He got tangled up with Willy Hernangomez and extended his elbow. It’s not worthy of a suspension, so expect Boogie to be back in the lineup on Tuesday vs. the Nuggets as both teams battle for the No. 1 seed. He finished with eight points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and three blocks in 11 minutes.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin
Source: Getty Images North America

NHL EZ Pick Preview 04/02/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Tuesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Artemi Panarin (vs BOS) or Brad Marchand (vs CLB)

Artemi Panarin leads the team in assists with 56 helpers and in points with 83.

Brad Marchand was selected as the NHL’s third star of the month for March. Marchand recorded nine goals and 14 assists in 15 games. He accounted for points in 12 of his 15 outings, while posting four three-point performances. Marchand has amassed 98 points in 78 matches.

Patrik Laine (vs MIN) or Alexander Radulov (vs PHI)

Patrik Laine had 21 goals in his first 24 games but has only nine goals in his last 55 contests.

Alexander Radulov scored his 27th goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss against the Vancouver Canucks. Radulov finished with five shots on goal, a blocked shot and a hit across 24:50 of ice time across 31 shifts. He has lit the lamp in three consecutive outings, and he has 10 goals and 15 points with a plus-10 rating across 14 contests in the month of March. He’ll look to score in a fourth straight game when the Stars return to action Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Brock Boeser (vs SJS) or Dustin Brown (vs ARI)

Brock Boeser registered an assist and three shots in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Stars. Boeser has 12 points in 14 March games, only failing to put his name on the scoresheet three times in the month. The consistent production gives him 55 points in 66 games, matching his output from last season. With up to three more chances to set a new personal best, it’s likely Boeser will do so in the final week of the season.

Dustin Brown scored his 22nd goal of the season, but finished the game with a minus-three rating in a 7-2 loss against the Flames on Monday night. Brown finished off a nice passing play in the first period to tie the game at 2-2. The wheels then fell off for the Kings in the third period, resulting in a minus-three rating for the 34-year old. Brown has now amassed 22 goals and 49 points in 69 games this season.

Auston Matthews (vs CAR) or Sidney Crosby (vs DET)

This will be the third straight year that the Leafs qualify for the playoffs – for those counting, that’s every single year since the club drafted Auston Matthews first overall Matthew has 209 game played, 111 goals and 204 points in his NHL career.

Sidney Crosby came in March like a lion but went out like a lamb: He had six goals and nine assists in last month’s first eight games, but only two assists in the final eight.

Nathan MacKinnon (vs EDM) or Connor McDavid (vs COL)

Two of the NHL’s best scorers, Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid, meet when Colorado and Edmonton hit the ice at Pepsi Center. MacKinnon is seventh in the NHL with 96 points and McDavid currently ranks second in the league with 115 points. 

Nathan MacKinnon needs one goal to reach 40 for the first time in his career and two points to reach 400 in the NHL.

Connor McDavid has been named the NHL’s first star of the month for March. McDavid racked up seven goals and 20 assists in 14 games. He picked up at least one point in 12 of his 14 outings, while recording 11 multi-point efforts. McDavid has a career-high 115 points in 75 games this season

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: D’Angelo Russell
Source: Mike Stobe / Getty Images North America

NBA FanLotto Preview 04/01/19

Check out the groupings for this Monday’s Fantasy Lotto contest. See who’s been on fire lately with their average fantasy score from the past 3 games.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Group 1

Devin Booker (vs CLE) – 49pts

Kyrie Irving (vs MIA)- 31.83pts (Probable to play on Monday)

Ben Simmons (vs DAL) – 31.5pts

Kemba Walker (vs UTA) – 28.5pts

Damien Lillard (vs MIN) – 28.33pts

Group 2

DeAndre Jordan (vs CHI) – 20.83pts

Hassan Whiteside (vs BOS) – 19.67pts

Marc Gasol (vs ORL) – 16.33pts

Deandre Ayton (Out of lineup on Monday)

Jusuf Nurkic (Out for the Season)

Group 3

D’Angelo Russell (vs MIL) – 33.67pts

Donovan Mitchell (vs CHA) – 21.33pts

Kyle Lowry (vs ORL) – 18.17pts

Zach LaVine (Out of lineup on Monday)

CJ McCollum (Out for Indefinite amount of Time)

Group 4

Kevin Love (vs PHX) – 28pts (Unknown if he plays on Monday due to Shoulder Injury)

Khris Middleton (vs BKN) – 27pts (Unknown if he plays on Monday due to Groin Injury)

Tobias Harris (vs DAL) – 21.83pts

Nikola Mirotic (Out for Indefinite amount of Time)

Lauri Markkanen (Out for the Season)

Group 5

Aaron Gordon (vs TOR) – 27.83pts

Andrew Wiggins (vs POR) – 27.17pts

Pascal Siakam (vs ORL) – 25.83pts

Domantas Sabonis (vs DET) – 21.33pts

Kelly Oubre Jr (Out for the Season)

Group 6

Bojan Bogdanovic (vs DET) – 24.83pts

Jayson Tatum (vs MIA) – 17.83pts

Marcus Morris (vs MIA) – 14.83pts

Justise Winslow (Out of lineup on Monday)

TJ Warren (Out for Indefinite amount of Time)

Group 7

Myles Turner (vs DET) – 28.33pts

Al Horford (vs MIA) – 26.67pts (Probable to play on Monday)

Serge Ibaka (vs ORL) – 25.83pts

Enes Kanter (vs MIN) – 22.17pts

Tristan Thompson (vs PHX) – 14.17pts

Group 8

Jordan Clarkson (vs PHX) – 19.33pts

Ricky Rubio (vs CHA) – 19.17pts

Spencer Dinwiddie (vs MIL) – 15pts

JJ Redick (vs DAL) – 14.5pts

Jeremy Lamb (vs UTA) – 12.67pts

Group 9

Dwyane Wade (vs BOS) – 22.5pts

Goran Dragic (vs BOS) – 22.5pts

Emmanuel Mudiay (vs CHI) – 22pts

Collin Sexton (vs PHX) – 21.33pts

Reggie Jackson (vs IND) –

Group 10

Joe Ingles (vs UTA) – 27.33pts

Larry Nance Jr (vs PHX) – 20.67pts

Thaddeus Young (vs DET) – 18.67pts

Nicolas Batum (vs UTA) – 9.33pts

Derrick Favors (Out of lineup on Monday)

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Source: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at matchups set for the Elite Eight.

Pick your Fantasy Sports Elite Eight Winners Here

Texas Tech could reach its first Final Four, while Gonzaga’s a win from its second in three seasons

A showdown of two No. 1s determines the West Regional’s bid to the 2019 Final Four, as the top-ranked Texas Tech defense faces the nation’s best offense in Gonzaga.

The third-seeded Red Raiders and top seed Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s Elite Eight at Honda Center with double-digit-point margins of victory in the Sweet 16, but the nature of their victories differed dramatically. Gonzaga used a balanced offense to overcome Florida State’s length and defensive prowess, ultimately pulling away from a four-point deficit late in the game.

Texas Tech physically battered Michigan and stymied every look the Wolverines had at the hoop. The Red Raiders’ overwhelming defense turned into offense in the second half, as star Jarrett Culver spread the wealth en route to a lopsided win.

The clash in styles sets the tone for this Elite Eight showdown.

Expect plenty of offense as one of these teams will break a lengthy Final Four drought

The Purdue Boilermakers and the Virginia Cavaliers do have some things in common. They both won their respective conference regular-season championship this year, they both received top-three seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, they’re looking to end their Final Four droughts (1980 for Purdue, 1984 for Virginia) and they’re both looking for their first-ever national championship. But that’s where the similarities end. Both teams thus far have surpassed Tournament expectations.

Purdue (26-9) has had a reputation of reaching the NCAA Tournament on a somewhat regular basis but struggles when trying to advance past the second round. Virginia (32-3), on the other hand, is still haunted by last year’s shocking upset loss in the first round to No. 16 UMBC. Now they must face one another in order to write the next chapter and continue to make history for their programs. Very few expected both of these teams to reach the Elite Eight, but here we are and this game will be fun to watch with a trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance.

The Boilermakers easily defeated Old Dominion and defending national champion Villanova in the first two rounds, but they needed overtime to defeat Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on Thursday after blowing an 18-point lead. The Cavaliers, however, have been shooting at will in this Tournament as they easily dispatched Gardner-Webb in round one, edged Oklahoma in round two, and staved off a pesky Oregon team in the Sweet 16. These are two of the best offensive teams in this Tournament and they’ll likely have to outshoot the other in order to advance.

Top two seeds in East Region meet in heavyweight battle for spot in Final Four

Two legendary coaches in Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski will meet each other with a Final Four berth on the line Sunday.

The Michigan State Spartans (31-6) and the Duke Blue Devils (32-5) will face off in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to determine the winner of the East Region and which team moves on to the Final Four in Minneapolis. On Friday night, No. 2 seed Michigan State handled No. 3 LSU 80-63. Hours later, No. 1 overall seed Duke escaped with a 75-73 win over ACC rival and No. 4 Virginia Tech.

Izzo and Krzyzewski have a combined 19 Final Four appearances between them but only one will be able to add to their career total this year.

SEC rivals meet for the third time this season with a Final Four berth on the line

One SEC team is guaranteed a Final Four berth in 2019.

Auburn and Kentucky will clash for a third time this season in the Midwest Regional Final on Sunday. The Tigers are playing in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986 and have never advanced to the Final Four. The Wildcats, on the other hand, are seeking their first Final Four appearance since 2015.

It’s safe to say that Auburn faces long odds to get past Kentucky. The Wildcats swept the Tigers in the regular season and are the last team to hand Auburn a defeat. It certainly isn’t impossible though with how Auburn has played up to this point.

Auburn has won 11 straight games. The two most recent victories were convincing blowout wins over No. 4 seed Kansas and No. 1 North Carolina. The Tigers are on a roll offensively, averaging 88.0 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky has used defense to get to this point. The Wildcats are allowing 52.6 points per game to offset some average offensive performances. They scored just 62 points in wins over Wofford and Houston.

 

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Jamie Benn and Artemi Panarin
Source: Getty Images North America

NHL EZ Pick Preview 03/28/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Thursday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Alex Ovechkin (vs CAR) or Patrick Kane (vs SJS)

Alex Ovechkin posted his NHL-high 49th goal of the season and he added an assist and plus-3 rating in Tuesday’s 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Ovechkin’s league lead in goals shrunk to four after John Tavares buried four goals in Monday’s game against the Panthers. He answered back with one of his patented Ovie goals on an absolute bomb from between the faceoff circles. Ovie has equaled his total from a season ago, and he needs just one more tally to post his eighth 50-goal campaign. It was also his 656th NHL goal, tying Brendan Shanahan for 13th place on the all-time list.

Patrick Kane has been held off the scoresheet in six of his last 12 games. Kane hasn’t picked up a point in the past two contests and he has one goal during that 12-game stretch. He carried the offense for so long, but his slump at the end could prove costly. Chicago is falling behind the pack in the playoff race.

Jamie Benn (vs EDM) or Artemi Panarin (vs MTL)

Forward Jamie Benn has 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists). He’s one of three offensive catalysts in Dallas along with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.

Artemi Panarin found the back of the net during Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the New York Islanders. Panarin put an end to his 12-game goal drought when he scored a breakaway goal early in the third period to make it 2-0 for his team. That was the Russian forward’s only shot on goal in the game. The 27-year-old now has 26 goals and 78 points in 73 games this season. Even though he’s struggled lately, Panarin has still put up great numbers all year.

Blake Wheeler (vs NYI) or Evgenii Dadonov (vs OTT)

The Jets are 25-10-4 at home. Winnipeg is the top team in the Western Conference with 5.7 assists per game, led by Blake Wheeler averaging 0.9.

Evgenii Dadonov has registered 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) over his last 11 games. The 30-year-old winger ranks third on the team in goals (25), while also sitting fourth in assists (38) and points (63). Since 2017-18, he has recorded a team-leading 39 even-strength goals.

Mark Scheifele (vs NYI) or Jack Eichel (vs DET)

Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with 35 goals and has recorded 80 points.

Jack Eichel enters Thursday night’s game with 99 career goals. Eichel is second on the team with 26 goals in 71 games but sits on the doorstep of his first real big career milestone. Once Eichel tallies his 100th goal, he will become only the 31st Sabres player in franchise history to crack the century mark with the team.

Joe Pavelski (vs CHI) or Aleksander Barkov (vs OTT)

Joe Pavelski (lower body) will miss Thursday’s game. Pavelski is close enough that the Sharks considered putting him back in the lineup, but ultimately they’re erring on the side of caution. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Sharks’ top priority has to be making sure he’ll be healthy for the first round.

Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers with 88 points (34 goals, 54 assists), needing just six more to match Pavel Bure’s franchise record for points in a single season (94). The 23-year-old centers paces the NHL in scoring since Feb. 17, posting 15 goals and 20 assists in 21 games.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Corey Davis Jr, Zion Williamson and Carsen Edwards
Source: Getty Images North America

Here’s a look at all matchups set for the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick your Fantasy Sports Sweet 16 Winners Here

ACC foes meet for the second time this season with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line

A month ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies pulled off a 77-72 upset of the Duke Blue Devils. A lot has changed since the two teams met on Feb. 26 as they will play one another in the NCAA Tournament East Region semifinals on Friday night at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.

Of course, Duke fans will be quick to mention freshman forward Zion Williamson, the ACC”s Freshman and Player of the Year, did not play in that loss in Blacksburg. However, Virginia Tech senior guard Justin Robinson also missed the game. Both Williamson and Robinson are expected to play on Friday.

The Blue Devils (31-5), who are the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, barely escaped their second-round matchup against UCF 77-76. Williamson scored 32 points and collected a game-high 11 rebounds in the victory.

The Hokies (26-8), are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1962 and just the second time in program history. On Sunday, No. 4 seed Virginia Tech defeated No. 12 Liberty 67-58 out in San Jose, California, to advance to the regional semifinals. Robinson had 13 points in the victory, one of four Hokies in double figures, as Virginia Tech outscored the Flames by 12 in the second half to overcome a three-point halftime deficit.

Streaking Ducks look to knock off top-seeded Cavaliers in Louisville

Virginia is finally living up to expectations in the postseason. Can the Cavaliers keep it going while facing an Oregon team that is embracing a rare underdog role? That’s a question that doesn’t offer an easy answer.

The Ducks aren’t your typical No. 12 seed. Injuries dropped Oregon from a preseason Top 25 ranking. Now healthy again, the Ducks have ripped off 10 straight wins and dominated Wisconsin and UC Irvine to get to the Sweet 16. They have won their first two NCAA Tournament games by an average of 18.5 points while holding their opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field.

Virginia seems capable of taking the next step forward after reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. The Cavaliers overcame a shaky first half to dispatch Gardner-Webb and were never really threatened by Oklahoma in the second round. They are winning with trademark smothering defense and patient offense.

Virginia and Oregon played a home-and-home series in 2010 and ’11. The Cavaliers won both games by an average margin of 14 points.

Seminoles, Bulldogs meet in Sweet 16 in West Regional for second straight year

The unofficial theme of the 2019 West Regional at Honda Center in Anaheim? Goin’ Back to Cali.

A year ago, Sweet 16 participants Florida State, Gonzaga and Michigan played in Los Angeles for the right to advance to the Final Four. The same three are back in Southern California, not far down the freeway in Anaheim. For Florida State and Gonzaga in particular, Thursday’s matchup is a case of deja vu. The two played in last year’s Sweet 16, with Florida State surprisingly dominant in a 75-60 win.

After coming one possession short of its first Final Four in almost a half-century, Florida State will look to rectify last year’s near-miss, starting with a redux of the 2018 Regional semifinal. For Gonzaga, the dream of a second Final Four this decade is still attainable.

A stark contrast in styles highlights this Sweet 16 rematch. Florida State comes in ranked No. 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is No. 1 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Tigers, Tar Heels meet in a matchup of two explosive offenses that like to pick up the pace

Auburn has proved its run through the SEC Tournament was no fluke. North Carolina has lived up to its billing and dominated as a No. 1 seed. Now the two clash in what could be one of the best Sweet 16 games we see on either Thursday or Friday.

The fifth-seeded Tigers have ripped off 10 straight wins to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. Auburn hasn’t reached the Elite Eight since 1986. The Tigers have never reached a Final Four in their history.

The Tar Heels are looking to reach the Final Four for the third time in four years. North Carolina has had a great track record in Sweet 16 games under head coach Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have advanced to the Elite Eight eight times under Williams and have lost just once in the Sweet 16, falling to Wisconsin in 2015.

This is the second time these two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn and North Carolina also clashed in the Sweet 16 in 1985. The Tar Heels won 62-56.

Tigers and Spartans clash in Washington D.C. with Elite Eight berth on the line

Four teams enter the nation’s capital fresh off a pair of NCAA Tournament wins. They haven’t all been pretty, they haven’t all been blowouts. But they’ve been wins, and in a time appropriately dubbed as “madness,” wins are simply the most important commodity to collect.

LSU makes its 10th appearance in the Sweet 16 and first since 2006. It has been a topsy-turvy ride for the third-seeded Tigers — who lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament to Florida — and have squeaked by in their first two NCAA Tournament wins by a combined seven points. Despite nearly blowing a double-digit lead to No. 6 Maryland, LSU pulled out the 69-67 win thanks to four players scoring in double figures, led by Skylar Mays’ 16 and Naz Reid’s 13.

In order to reach their first Elite Eight since 2006, the Tigers will have to contend with Michigan State, the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament champion. The Spartans received a scare from No. 15 Bradley in the opening round, but they dispatched fellow Big Ten foe (and No. 10) Minnesota by 20 points in the Round of 32. The Spartans dominated the Gophers in most areas — including shooting 57 percent from the field (compared to Minnesota’s 30.5) and outrebounding them 45-19.

However, MSU committed 22 turnovers, its second-highest single-game total and just the third game this season with at least 20. If the Spartans want to make the most of their first Sweet 16 trip since 2015 (when the program also reached the Final Four), they will need to clean up that part of their game.

The two point guards squaring off might be some of the smallest players on the court, but they carry the biggest impact into this game. LSU’s Tremont Waters (5-11) led the SEC (and is third in Division I) with 2.97 steals per game, as the Tigers are a top-10 team in that category. On the other side, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston (6-1) is one of the best distributors in the sport. He’s dished out 7.5 assists per game — which tops the Big Ten and ranks third in Division I — and only Murray State standout Ja Morant (331 total assists this season) has more than Winston’s 271.

Boilermakers, Volunteers meet for the second straight season, this time for a spot in the Elite Eight

Purdue vs. Tennessee is not just one of the few Sweet 16 matchups that I correctly picked in my bracket this year. It also one could set the tone for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.

Both the Boilermakers (25-9) and Volunteers (31-5) have more than held their own in one of the more competitive Tournament fields in recent memory. Purdue made short work of Old Dominion in the first round, then the Big Ten regular-season champs put the hammer down on defending national champion Villanova in the second round, beating the Wildcats by 26 points.

Tennessee, on the other hand, had to surge past a pesky Colgate team in the first round, then needed overtime to put away the Iowa Hawkeyes and not end up on the wrong end of a historic comeback. The Volunteers led by 25 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half and were up by 21 at halftime before Iowa stormed back. But Tennessee did what teams are supposed to do — survive and advance.

So now the question is can Purdue continue its Tournament domination, or will Tennessee find a way to outshoot and outscore another tough opponent? After facing Iowa, the Volunteers have an idea of what to expect against another Big Ten squad. This is UT’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014 and they don’t want to waste it. This is the third straight Sweet 16 berth for the Boilermakers but they haven’t been able to make it past this round. These two teams faced each other last season in late November, a game the Volunteers won in overtime (78-75) on the road.

Two of the nation’s best defensive teams collide in Orange County

Michigan’s run to the national championship game a season ago went through Southern California. The Wolverines return, this time opening the West Regional against an opponent that fell short of its Final Four dreams a year ago, Texas Tech.

This clash of Big Ten and Big 12 teams features two of the very best defensive squads college basketball has to offer, with two of the game’s premier coaches on the sideline. For Michigan’s John Beilein, 2019 marks the seventh Sweet 16 appearance of his illustrious coaching career and fifth such trip at Michigan. The well-tenured Beilein has implemented a fluid brand of unselfish offensive basketball that complements the Wolverines’ No. 2-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency.

Beard’s overall track record is much shorter, but the 2019 Tournament is the third in four years in which Beard has coached a team winning at least one game. He led Arkansas-Little Rock to an upset of Purdue in 2016, and now in just his third season at Texas Tech has led the Red Raiders to consecutive Sweet 16s.

The next step for Texas Tech is to advance to the Final Four, while Michigan pursues its third appearance in the last six years.

Teams’ first-ever meeting on the court is for a spot in the Elite Eight

The NCAA Tournament has brought about many first-time matchups through the years, and we’ll get another one on Friday night when the Houston Cougars take on the Kentucky Wildcats with an Elite Eight berth on the line. The Cougars under Kelvin Sampson are enjoying their first 30-win campaign since the “Phi Slama Jama” era of the early 1980s, while the Wildcats have been constant championship contenders under head coach John Calipari. And when these two forces collide it could be a historic occasion.

Houston (33-3) took out both Georgia State and Ohio State in the previous two rounds, winning by a total of 44 points. Kentucky (29-6) made short work of Abilene Christian in the first round, then survived a close game with Wofford last Saturday. This is the eighth Sweet 16 appearance for UK in the Calipari era, while the Cougars are playing in this round for the first time since 1984 when the team led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler went on to lose to Georgetown in the national championship game.

This will be the second SEC team that Houston has played this season. The Cougars beat fellow Sweet 16 participant LSU at home back in December. As for Kentucky, this will be the Wildcats’ first matchup with a team from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) since defeating Cincinnati in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This also will be the schools’ first-ever meeting.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook

NBA EZ Pick Preview 03/27/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Wednesday’s EZ Pick.

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Stephen Curry (vs MEM) or Russell Westbrook (vs IND)

Stephen Curry returned from a rest day to score 26 points on Sunday, making five 3-pointers with nine rebounds, three assists and one steal in 35 minutes. The night off Saturday appeared to do him good, as Steph looked sharp after resting for the first time in Golden State’s past 50 games. He came in shooting just 41.6% from the field since the All-Star break, but made 9-of-19 shots tonight and hit a few key buckets to ward off a late challenge from Detroit. He’s cruising along as a top-10 value but owners should be mindful of the Warriors’ two remaining back-to-back sets — it wouldn’t be surprising if Steph got a night or two off in preparation for the playoffs.

Russell Westbrook hit just 6-of-20 shots for 16 points in Monday’s 115-103 loss to the Grizzlies. He dished out seven dimes with five rebounds, one triple and one turnover, but was outplayed by both Delon Wright and Tyler Dorsey. The good news is that he didn’t pick up a technical foul, so he’s still two away from another one-game suspension. With the Thunder sliding down to 8th in the West, OKC won’t have the luxury of resting Westbrook as long as seeding is up for grabs.

LeBron James (vs UTA) or Paul George (vs IND)

LeBron James had 23 points, seven rebounds, 14 assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 11-of-20 shooting in Tuesday’s 124-106 win over the Wizards. The Lakers are out of the playoffs and play again on Wednesday night against the Jazz, and it would be surprising to see LeBron in uniform for that one. Fantasy owners should plan on being without him Wednesday night. LeBron said after the game that he doesn’t know how many more games he’ll play this season, but that he will go all out when he does play. He also said he considered skipping tonight’s game to go to Chris Bosh’s ceremony in Miami, but decided against it due to the fact the NBA wouldn’t have been pleased.

Paul George will be playing his fourth game against his former team. In two games against Indiana last season, he averaged just 11 points per game, but the Thunder won both. In their only other matchup this season, he scored 36 points in a two-point loss. I think we’ll see “Playoff P” in action, given both the motivation against his former club and the sheer need for the Thunder to get back into the win column.

Damian Lillard (vs CHI) or Bradley Beal (vs PHX)

Damian Lillard didn’t have his best night shooting the basketball, as he was 10-of-30 from the field and 4-of-16 from three, but he finished with 31 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and one steal in a double-overtime win over the Nets. Lillard has scored 30 points or more in four of his last five games, and his average of 28.1 points per game in March is his second-highest for a month this season (29.6 ppg in October). The All-Star point guard is also averaging 8.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game this month, and he’ll have even more on his plate offensively as Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a horrific leg injury. Portland is also without CJ McCollum (knee), meaning that the Trail Blazers will look to solidify its playoff seeding without two of the team’s top three scorers.

Bradley Beal hit 10-of-19 shots and two 3-pointers for 32 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block in 37 minutes of Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. That just about does it for the Wizards playoff hopes and you have to wonder if Beal starts missing occasional games with nothing left to play for. So far there hasn’t been talk about shutting him down, or even missing games, but given his injury history and veteran/star status, it would be surprising if he doesn’t at least get a couple days off the rest of the way.

CJ McCollum (vs CHI) or Klay Thompson (vs MEM)

C.J. McCollum (left knee) will not travel with the Blazers on their upcoming 4-game road trip. After Monday’s home game vs. the Nets, the Blazers will face the Bulls, Hawks, Pistons and Wolves on the road. That rules McCollum out until at least April 4th. Coach Terry Stotts said that McCollum is “progressing well,” but there’s no guarantee he returns before the end of the regular season.

Klay Thompson put up 24 points (10-17 FG, 4-6 3Pt) to go with two rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes Sunday in the Warriors’ 121-114 win over the Pistons. Thompson took part in all five of the Warriors’ league-high five games during the week, contributing averages of 18.4 points (on 42.5 percent shooting from the field), 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.6 triples per contest. With the Warriors holding just a half-game lead over the Nuggets for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into Monday’s action, Thompson and most of Golden State’s key regulars shouldn’t be subject to the frequent late-season rest they have received in past years.

DeMarcus Cousins (vs MEM) or Steven Adams (vs IND)

DeMarcus Cousins (rest) is set to return for Wednesday’s game versus the Grizzlies, Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News reports. Cousins was sidelined Sunday against the Pistons for rest purposes, as it was the second half of a back-to-back set. Coach Steve Kerr indicated Tuesday that all Warriors will be active in Memphis, so look for him to resume his usual role with the team.

Steven Adams had two points (1-7 FG), eight rebounds, four steals, and three blocks in 32 minutes during Monday’s 115-103 loss to the Grizzlies. Adams was absolutely awful offensively, only salvaging his stat line thanks to his impressive defensive contributions. He has been held to single digits in scoring in three straight tilts and four of the last five, and Adams will look to get back on track during Wednesday’s matchup versus the Pacers.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Corey Davis Jr, Zion Williamson and Carsen Edwards
Source: Getty Images North America

Duke hopes to end in Minneapolis how they started… as the No. 1 team

Usually at this time of year, we’re all discussing whether Cinderella can continue their magical run through the NCAA Tournament. This year however?

Chalk. Lots of it.

While the field has been narrowed down from 68, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that those plucky little underdogs are nowhere to be found. All those high seeds — and there are plenty of them right now — mean this year’s edition of the Tournament could have one of its best-ever second weekends. From the Hall of Fame coaches to the future NBA lottery picks, there’s plenty of high-level basketball to be played over the coming days and the 2019 national champion will surely be the cream of the crop as a result.

Pick your Fantasy Sports March Madness Winners Here

How do all those remaining college basketball teams stack up against each other though? After taking in the first two rounds, here’s a re-seeding of those teams still left dancing in the Sweet 16:

1. North Carolina

The top seed in the Midwest is playing more like the top seed in the entire Tournament — and have been for over a month now. Their tempo can really be difficult to match and Roy Williams has been dialing up the right moves in March for a long time now, which is as good of an asset as it is having veterans like Luke Maye to go out and execute. Having Nassir Little break out during the first weekend only enhances the fact that the Tar Heels are playing like the team to beat.

2. Duke

Yes, the Blue Devils were lucky to survive and advance out of that second-round game against UCF. Here’s the thing though, just about every title-winning team has to say that they are both lucky and good at some point in this kind of tourney. We know Duke certainly is good with Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, Tre Jones et al. and now we know they’re a bit lucky too. It’s a tough road but Coach K and company have to still like their odds of making it to Minneapolis.

3. Gonzaga

Five straight Sweet 16s is quite the accomplishment for Mark Few and this is one of his most well-rounded group of players yet. Brandon Clarke’s monster game against an athletic Baylor squad in the second round should help serve notice that while Rui Hachimura gets most of the attention, the Bulldogs can beat you a dozen different ways.

4. Virginia

You would have to forgive the Cavaliers for being a bit nervous during the first weekend given what happened last year to them in the first round. At the same time, you also have to give them credit for eventually finding their sea legs and looking a lot like the team who earned the No. 1 seed in the South for a terrific regular season. This is Tony Bennett’s best offensive-minded group yet and when you add that to their terrific defense, the time is certainly now for the elusive Final Four trip.

5. Michigan State

Another squad that seemed to be looking ahead a bit in the first round, the Spartans really showed what they are capable of in trouncing their conference foe Minnesota to make it to the Sweet 16. Tom Izzo’s sideline demeanor has been the focus of most talking heads but not enough has been paid to how well this group plays as a team. Their biggest obstacle is probably the fact that their Final Four road likely goes through Duke but this is an excellent all-around squad.

6. Michigan

The Wolverines probably look at the West region with a bit of deja vu given the similarities to last year but they know that a Final Four bid is there for the taking. They had one of the most effortless first weekends of anybody on this list and their defense is absolutely ferocious. John Beilein might be the best coach in the game at the moment and he’s got the squad to keep going well past the Sweet 16.

7. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders top-notch defense was on full display in that impressive clamp-down of high-flying Buffalo in the second round. They’ve got the horses on the other end though too, as Jarrett Culver keeps shooting up NBA draft boards with the way he’s playing on both ends of the court. Chris Beard has done a phenomenal job this season and could be saving the best for last.

8. Tennessee

In terms of talent, the Volunteers should be much higher on this list. But after getting pushed by Colgate and then letting Iowa storm back to force an improbable overtime, there are real concerns about the group from Knoxville and beyond. Admiral Schofield has the talent to be the best player in the Tournament but the way he pulled himself out of OT against the Hawkeyes combined with Rick Barnes as head coach leave Tennessee as quite the enigma at the moment.

9. Kentucky

Let’s face it, PJ Washington’s health holds back the Wildcats from really being the title threat that they looked like a few weeks ago. Credit to John Calipari though, he’s got his youngsters playing hard on both ends and really making sure everybody is comfortable in their role. They survived Wofford thanks to a (statistically impossible) off night from Fletcher Magee and will have to be better in all areas if they want to make it to the Twin Cities.

10. Purdue

Credit to Matt Painter’s crew, who just might be the hottest team on this list save maybe the Ducks. The offense is certainly clicking at a high level and there are threats to worry about even if Carsen Edwards isn’t the one going off like he’s in NBA Jam. Not just beating the defending champs but running them off the floor served notice that the Boilermakers need to be taken extra seriously by all the teams that stand in their way.

11. Florida State

It sounds as though Phil Cofer is not going to return to the court for the Seminoles, which is a tough blow for the team in terms of his senior leadership and because of the tragic loss of his father. Raiquan Gray has played solidly in his absence and Terance Mann is stepping up his game for this uber-athletic squad but there’s a big jump in level of play with the long trip West in the Sweet 16.

12. Houston

It’s incredible to believe that the Cougars are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since Phi Slama Jama caught the attention of fans far and wide. While this group does seem a bit like a fish out of water amongst blue bloods and other power conference opponents, make no mistake — they can play. Corey Davis is really an underrated player and they’ve gotten all the right moves out of head coach Kelvin Sampson.

13. Auburn

The Tigers haven’t been on a run like this since Charles Barkley was in uniform on the Plains and not in the studio cheering the team on. The effort against Kansas was one of the most all-around impressive ones in this Tournament and Bruce Pearl has his guys playing hard every time out on the court.

14. LSU

The Tigers survived a thriller against Maryland to make it to the Sweet 16 and there’s no question they have the talent to make it to the Elite Eight and beyond. That said, they’re still a team without their head coach and without Will Wade, there certainly seems like there is a ceiling with this group. That’s not to say they can’t exceed expectations, just that they’re tempered a bit going forward.

15. Oregon

There’s something about the Ducks under Dana Altman when the calendar turns to March. He’s getting the absolute most out of his group, which is as hot as they come the last few games. Payton Pritchard is hitting big shot after big shot and nobody really wants to challenge Kenny Wooten. Yes, it’s a tall task being the only double-digit seed remaining but there’s certainly something brewing the last couple of weeks.

16. Virginia Tech

Hats off to Buzz Williams, who has the noted football school dancing in the Sweet 16 for the first time. The Hokies are a balanced group and have the benefit of knowing that they have beaten their upcoming opponent just a few weeks ago. They get the benefit of playing pretty close to home and that could be the difference even as they make the trip to Washington, D.C. as a noted underdog.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Bubba Watson
Source: Getty Images North America

Bubba Watson is back to defend his title

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is set for March 27-31 at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.

Here’s what our best WGC-Dell Match Play 2019 lineup looks like:

Tommy Fleetwood

If you read between the lines of this week’s picks (or heck, even if you just glance at them), you’ll notice a distinct Euro lean. It’s a simple equation: match play = Ryder Cup = Euro success. Our friends across the pond haven’t quite dominated the Match Play like you might expect — since 2009, Europe can boast three winners and six runner-ups at this event — but match play does seem to suit them, none more than Fleetwood, whose lights-out putting at the 2018 Ryder Cup was the stake through America’s heart.

Bubba Watson

The defending champion comes in hot off a T4 at the Valspar, and his stress-free takedown of all comers at Austin CC last year — he dusted Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the finals — was a wonder to behold. The track, the format and the current trend line all play in Bubba’s favor.

Sergio Garcia

Another longtime Ryder Cup hero, Sergio emerged from pool play 3-0-0 at last year’s Match Play before losing in the quarters. Scuffled a bit at the Valspar (T54), but otherwise his current form is unassailable.

Phil Mickelson

Gotta love how Lefty is finally embracing social media; just last week he treated the world to a five-part series via Instagram on how he got his massive calves. Lefty’s loving life and giving no effs, and that makes him especially dangerous, despite a couple of recent MCs. He was a quarterfinalist here in 2017.

Ian Poulter

He’s broken your heart enough times at Ryder Cups; now let him earn you some money. Poulter is second only to Tiger in career match wins at the Match Play with 27, and he’s playing great this year, with a recent streak of four straight top-6 finishes. Lost in the quarterfinals here last year.

Jim Furyk

His stirring charge at Sawgrass was no fluke; he has five top-20 finishes, including three top 10s, in his last seven starts. Leads the Tour in driving accuracy, second in scoring. His record at the Match Play includes a semifinal 1-up loss to eventual champion Rory McIlroy in 2015.

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane
Source: Getty Images North America

NHL EZ Pick Preview 03/26/19

Take a look at the matchups set for this Tuesday’s EZ Pick.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Alexander Ovechkin (vs CAR) or Patrick Kane (vs ARI)

Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 48 goals and has totaled 84 points.

Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 102 total points, scoring 41 goals and adding 61 assists.

Artemi Panarin (vs NYI) or Evgenii Dadonov (vs MTL)

Artemi Panarin collected a helper in Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Canucks. He added a plus-2 rating with two shots and two PIM in the contest. Panarin has been excellent once again with 77 points (25 goals, 52 assists) in 72 games this year, and he has a good chance of reaching 80 points for the second time as he tries to help guide the Blue Jackets into the playoffs.

Evgenii Dadonov earned two helpers in a 7-5 loss against Toronto on Monday. Dadonov has three goals and 14 points in the last 10 games. He finished the 2017-18 season with 25 goals and 65 points in 74 contests. Dadonov has 25 markers and 63 points through 76 contests this year.

Aleksander Barkov (vs MTL) or Jonathan Toews (vs ARI)

The last time the Panthers played the Canadiens, Aleksander Barkov had a hat-trick, added an assist, and scored a goal-of-the-year candidate on Carey Price. Barkov (15-20-35) rank first in NHL scoring over the last 20-game span for the Panthers. The Finnish forward leads the Panthers in scoring with 34-54-88 totals.

Blackhawk coach Jeremy Colliton juggled his line combinations, putting a slumping Alex DeBrincat with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the top line. They combined for 15 shots but no points on Sunday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (vs CAR) or Jonathan Huberdeau (vs MTL)

Last April, the Capitals defeated the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs en route to winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Evgeny Kuznetsov led all players in points.

Jonathan Huberdeaus netted two goals in a 7-5 loss to Toronto on Monday night. Huberdeau scored both markers during the third period to bring his total to 25 on the year. He produced a career-high 27 goals last season. Huberdeau already has personal bests in 2018-19 with 59 assists and 84 points in 76 games. He has piled up seven goals and 19 points in the last 10 contests.

Max Domi (vs FLA) or Matt Duchene (vs NYI)

Max Domi, who leads Montreal with 67 points (26 goals, 41 assists), has three goals and an assist in against the Panthers this Season.

Matt Duchene acquired 6 points in 16 games since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured (left to right): Corey Davis Jr, Zion Williamson and Carsen Edwards
Source: Getty Images North America

Here’s how the Sweet 16 looks

Need an updated 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket to embrace the full March Madness? We’ve got you covered, with a look at which teams made the Sweet 16 and which teams they beat to get there. 

Pick your Fantasy Sports March Madness Winners Here

Here are the 16 teams remaining in the tournament (alphabetical listing)…

Auburn

Duke

FSU

Gonzaga

Houston

Kentucky

LSU

Michigan

Michigan State

UNC

Oregon

Purdue

Tennessee

Texas Tech

Virginia

Virginia Tech

Here’s a complete rundown of the remaining 2019 NCAA Tournament schedule:

Thursday, March 28 & Saturday, March 30 – South (Louisville, Ky.) and West (Anaheim, Calf.) Regionals

Friday, March 29 & Sunday, March 31 – East (Washington, D.C.) and Midwest Regionals (Kansas City, Mo.)

Saturday, April 6 – Final Four (Minneapolis)

Monday, April 8 – National Championship (Minneapolis)

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Jaylen Nowell
Source: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images North America

Take a look at the matchups set in the First Round Midwest Region.

Pick your Fantasy Sports March Madness Winners Here

Huskies and Aggies set to face off in Columbus

One of the better No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups will be played on Friday as the Washington Huskies and the Utah State Aggies are set to face off against each other. The Huskies (26-8) are coming off of a loss to Oregon in the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament while the Aggies (28-6) won the Mountain West Tournament to extend their winning streak to 10 in a row.

Washington made it all the way to the final game of the Pac-12 Tournament but the Huskies have had their issues recently. They are just 4-3 over their last seven games with all of those wins coming by no more than five points. But Washington doesn’t lack for talent as the team features Pac-12 Player of the Year Jaylen Nowell as well as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, Matisse Thybulle.

Meanwhile Utah State is in the midst of a 17-1 run that has the Aggies in the polls for the first time since the 2010-11 season. This also is the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.

Buckeyes take on the Big 12 Tournament champs in Tulsa

Two of college basketball’s premiere conferences will go head-to-head in the NCAA Tournament when the Big Ten’s Ohio State and Big 12’s Iowa State face off in the first round on Friday. While both teams haven’t been strangers to the Big Dance it’s been a few years since either has made a deep run. The Buckeyes (19-14) made it to the Elite Eight in 2013, were in the Final Four the year before that, and haven’t won a national title since back in 1960. The Cyclones (23-11) last made the Sweet 16 in 2016, the Elite Eight in 2000 but haven’t been to the Final Four since 1944.

Ohio State was the last of the eight Big Ten teams to get an invite to the Big Dance. The Buckeyes tied for eighth in the conference with a 8-12 record and after stumbling down the stretch (3-7 in their last 10), appeared headed for the NIT. But Chris Holtmann’s team’s total body of work, which includes wins over NCAA Tournament teams Cincinnati, Iowa, and Minnesota, was enough in the selection committee’s eyes. Another contributing factor to Ohio State’s late-season kid was the three-game suspension of Kaleb Wesson, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

Iowa State (23-11) won its way into the NCAA Tournament, taking the Big 12 Tournament title for the second time in three years to get the automatic bid. Steve Prohm’s team went 9-9 in the regular season, but took down higher seeds and fellow NCAA Tournament teams Baylor, Kansas State, and Kansas to cut down the nets in Kansas City. After a one-year absence, the Cyclones are back in the Big Dance and don’t want to be one and done.

Both of these teams have something to prove and the NCAA Tournament is the perfect stage to make that happen.

Pirates look to slow down the streaking Terriers

There probably isn’t a hotter team in the nation than Wofford heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Terriers own a 20-game winning streak and feature an offense that scores in bunches. Seton Hall gets the not-so-simple task of becoming the latest team to try and contain the Southern Conference champs.

Wofford earning a No. 7 seed is no fluke. The Terriers lost only to North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi State, and Oklahoma during the regular season. They went unbeaten in conference play and have one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams.

Seton Hall teetered on the bubble with several bad losses before winning four of five and reaching the Big East Tournament championship game to nail down an at-large bid and a No. 10 seed. The Pirates are a strong defensive team, but also struggle on offense enough to cancel it out at times.

Seton Hall is seeking NCAA Tournament victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1993. A win for Wofford would be the school’s first in six NCAA Tournament appearances.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks